April 17, 2013

Legends in their own backyard

For a number of Australian greats down the years, cricket has begun rather close to home
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Some of the most enjoyable cricket you can ever play is in what we Down Under call Backyard Tests. Most celebrated Australian cricketers played these games growing up, in which a bunch of mates gather daily in summer to imitate their cricketing heroes.

These games are highly competitive affairs and often end in bruises and tears, and with parents having to adjudicate dodgy decisions and break up the odd bit of fisticuffs.

When Doug Walters was a boy, he and his brothers, Terry and Warren, made their own backyard pitch on their dairy-farming property in the NSW country town of Dungog. One day during the Christmas holidays when Doug and his younger brother Terry were on their way to the woods, Doug noticed how car and tractor wheels had flattened the anthills along the track. The boys made a close inspection of the ant beds and were amazed that the surface was rock hard. "Bet that soil would make a good cricket pitch," Doug laughed.

After lots of hard work carting the ant-bed soil home, they laid a new pitch in a specially prepared hole roughly 40 centimetres deep, six metres long and two metres wide. Directly behind this pitch was the backyard dunny. It was on that pitch of uneven bounce and exaggerated turn that Doug learnt to read length and to play the ball turning in from the off with the power and confidence he later showed in senior cricket.

The Backyard Test "teams" always included the champs of the day, such as Australia's Alan Davidson, Ray Lindwall, Richie Benaud, and England's Ken Barrington, Len Hutton, Jim Laker and John Edrich.

The Chappell Brothers - Ian, Greg and Trevor - played in the backyard with a ferocity that almost beggared belief. One hot December day, six-year-old Trevor winced and trudged off the wicket in the Chappells' North Glenelg backyard after copping a nasty blow to the left elbow, courtesy Ian's quicker ball. Fighting back tears and after his mum, Jeanne, attended to the wound, Trevor returned to the fray. His older brothers greeted Trevor's return to the wicket with a barrage of bouncers.

Champ, the family's pet Labrador, was a brilliant fieldsman and often caught the unwary player who dared hit the ball in the air. One day Greg smashed an on-drive and Champ latched on to it all right, but he had misjudged the speed of the ball, and for days he trotted about shaking his head, no doubt hearing the rattle of loose teeth.

During the "Tests", Jeanne often had to adjudicate, becoming a mediator between warring factions. Most youngsters use a soft ball in the backyard games; not so the Chappells. It was always a regular cricket ball, and the likelihood of getting a blow to the unguarded legs made them watch it closely.

There was always room for humour, but not so much for their dad, Martin, who had to appease the insurance company for all the claims relating to broken windows. Early one morning Greg clobbered an Ian Chappell full toss over the protective wire netting. The ball cleared the paling fence and shattered the neighbour's kitchen window. Jeanne and Martin were sitting at the kitchen table when 14-year-old Greg burst into the room.

"You'd better come quick, dad," he said. Martin followed Greg outside. Immediately he saw the damage and heard the angry shouts of their Italian neighbour. They ran next door, and there they stood, trying not to laugh at the sight of their irate neighbour, a conglomeration of bacon, eggs and tomatoes meandering down his pyjama pants.

Allan Border too bombarded the family's Mosman neighbours' houses with the odd smash hit. In fact, his mum and dad, Sheila and John Border, had a handyman friend on standby for emergency repairs.

One day Allan lofted a ball from his brother Brett straight through a neighbour's bathroom window. Not the elderly spinster who loved the sound of the children playing and didn't mind the odd breakage, this was another neighbour. Gingerly Allan climbed over the fence and peered through the broken window, to be confronted by a young woman having a shower. Allan always regarded that hoick to leg to be the best shot of his career.

Champ, the family's pet Labrador, was a brilliant fieldsman and often caught the unwary player who dared hit the ball in the air. One day Greg smashed an on-drive and Champ latched on to it, but he had misjudged the speed of the ball, and for days he trotted about shaking his head, no doubt hearing the rattle of loose teeth

Before the turn of the 20th century, Clarrie Grimmett played cricket with his neighbours, the Harris brothers, all of whom bowled legbreaks, in Roxburgh Street, Wellington, until the gas lamps came on to brighten the gloom and Constable Thirsk arrived to clear the urchins from his presence.

Ray Lindwall bowled in the street with his mates to illustrate to the great Bill O'Reilly, en route to his home after a day at the office, that the St George Club would do well to sign him up. And Neil Harvey played with his brothers in the cobbled lanes of Fitzroy.

Down the years thousands of Australian cricketers have played cricket in their backyards. They have included the likes of Kim and Glenn Hughes, Steve and Mark Waugh, Mike and David Hussey, and I am sure many emerging stars of today.

I was introduced to the concept of Backyard Tests in the 1950s, a time when my heroes Harvey, Davidson and Benaud prevailed Down Under. Whenever "Harvey" batted in the backyard, you had to assume a left-hander's stance, when "Davo" bowled it had to be left-handed, and you had to bowl legspin when "Benaud" came on.

It all began for me in the backyard in Chatswood, a Harvey hook from the Lane Cove River, but a move in 1955 brought the family Mallett to faraway Perth, so divorced by the tyranny of distance from Sydney on the eastern seaboard that it might as well as been the Moon. Youngsters learn to adjust to change, though, and adjust I did.

The Backyard Test came round the time Jim Laker took 19 for 90 on an Old Trafford dustbowl that might well have looked like the lunar surface. Laker's performance inspired me in those Backyard Tests. I bowled offies with a bald tennis ball and became something of a local bowling wizard to my opponents, David Cowlishaw, Evan Jones, Gavin McCoy and Don Moran.

Moran was a tall lad who was a little different to the rest. All but he turned up to Backyard Tests barefoot, wearing shots and a t-shirt. Moran was always immaculately dressed: creams, proper cricket boots, and he was always padded up, ready to bat.

We allowed him to bat first, and no amount of skill could prevent the swinging, bald tennis ball from eventually evading the bat. As soon as Moran was hit on the pad, a raucous appeal went up and five or six index fingers were immediately thrust skywards. Don Moran never did score many runs in our Backyard Test matches.

Ashley Mallett took 132 Tests wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. An author of over 25 books, he has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson and Ian Chappell

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Mary_786 on | April 18, 2013, 1:19 GMT

    The Aussie backyard game is what makes our cricketers, its fierce and intense but fun at the same time. In the current players i remember reading about Hughes and Khawaja. Hughes had a banana patch on his leg side hence his offside was the preferred area of scoring and we can see that in his game even now. Khawaja is said to have played in a backyard where pull shots were rewarded as you had to clear bushland to get the maximum runs and we can see how well he plays that shot.Warner grew up in a backyard where scoring fast runs was rewarded. Its amazing how backyard cricket shapes the games of our modern players.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    backyard cricket to me :) takes me back ages, first half of 90's. india was getting battered overseas, not one batsman,except for tendulkar, looked the part facing upto fast bowling.. we had to show ourselves it was not impossible frontyard measuring 25 ft by 6 ft was the arena. one side taped tennis balls or wet rubber balls, flung (not bowled) from 15 yards onto a slightly wet concrete surface; with an imaginary field; real keeper, slips and short point; bat till u get out..out defined as thrice beaten/hit on the body apart from the normal, radio commentary of tests in the background as voice over.. day long duels, longest standing bat gets treated by the rest to tea/biscuits... oh those days..

  • POSTED BY Meety on | April 17, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    Gotta "Backyard" cricket story that isn't quite. I had a mate you's parents ran out of funds for their extensions next door. The whole front half of the house was just a brick & concrete shell. So all the boys in the neighborhood would come around & play indoor cricket in what was supposed to be the Lounge room! We'd have up to 5 a-side. All came to an end when a Feature Window (floor to ceiling) ended up with a big crack in it! A few year later I had another mate who's dad was a priest & we played Indoor cricket in the Church Hall - the pitch would of barely been 15 feet, so you'd bowl as fast as you can off a 5 step run up - there was no time for a back lift! Later in my Uni days - we'd play cricket at another mates place where the backyard was on a slope worse than Lord's & the pitch was a dirt driveway - the ball would spit & bounce & just getting the middle was a challenge. Also - love the rule where the Wheelie Bin was always Boonie & if you hit it on the full you were out!

  • POSTED BY Marktc on | April 17, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    Serious backyard cricket is not limited to Oz...in SA you grow up playing some serious back yard cricket. Depending on where you play, wickets range from bins to trees, bats could be any type of object that resembles a bat, balls are mostly tennis or the real thing. Don't get me wrong, often real bats and wickets are used, but such is the passion, anything can be used to strike up a committed game. Oh, and no pads...or gloves mostly..and never helmets...this is the tough play. In this 'rough' form of the game, batsman value their wickets and bowlers are ruthless. The rules are..well..what can I say..pretty basic. Sadly, due to breaking windows in houses around you, the lesser known rule -'six and you're out' is used. But this is where it all begins for many. Some remain playing this type of cricket and age has no bearing on the enjoyment of the game. Others move on to provincial and national callings....but backyard cricket is where it all begins..

  • POSTED BY nandwani88 on | April 17, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    Ah. The backyard test matches! What memories it brings back. Remembering me and my friends and cousins playing in backyards and rooftops in Belize City, bowling as Ambrose, Walsh, and Marshall. And batting like Lara, Chanders, and Richardson. I am left-handed, so I always got to be Lara and Chanders. Bowling was a bit tricky. Always went with Sobers so I could bowl spin and pace. And bat as well! Whaddaplaya! It's so cool to know our Aussie brothers play the same type of game all the way on the other side of the world! Pretty neat!

  • POSTED BY sharidas on | April 20, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Thanks Ashley ! From one of those thousands of backyard cricketers who never made it big, but carry fantastic memories, the same as those who made it big!

  • POSTED BY cric_wanderer on | April 20, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    those were the days.. we just needed a ball and we would play whole day long.. playing with different field restrictions depending on the number of fielders.. and those endless quarrels we had.. the best part is next day we would be back again playing..imitating our heroes.. from kapil to azhar to sachin to dravid to kumble...ohh... those were the days...

  • POSTED BY nickvegas on | April 19, 2013, 3:37 GMT

    Our backyard was a paved in concrete patio with a roof, so the only place to score runs was under the patio roof straight past the bowler. Even today my best shot is a cracking straight drive.

  • POSTED BY Cricket_theBestGame on | April 19, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    backyard cricket is what makes great cricketers! nearly all of the great names had played some sort of backyard/street cricket. they learnt the art the natural way that came to them. not by Level 3/4 certificate carried by ex cricketers to make living! ask Andy flower which coach he had in his childhood!

    me and my brother used to play with wood piece measuring only about 5cm in width. we used to play with tape ball and once a street passer by told us politely to buy a real bat ! we played backyard cricket up until 10yrs ago. we used it as a practice for the weekend match and it helped us greatly.

  • POSTED BY IndianInnerEdge on | April 18, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    Gr8 Read!...here's my 5c backyard story. In my early teens, went to a rural place in the backwaters area of Allepey district, Kerala state (south India). Elder cousins team were a man short, I was drafted. Posted to midwicket boundary (boundary was the backwater/canal running around the oval shaped flat ground that we played), batsman hooks in the air, I catch it - YAY!, Being in my young teens and full of TV imagery that we see of the cric stars- I throw it in the air over my head to celebrate the catch, unfortunately the throw crosses the canal directly behind me and falls on the orther side. Whilst this is happening did'nt cotton on to the fact that this was a NO-ball, had to run around the canal to pick up the ball (frm the other side) and throw it in-colourful words from my cousins ringing in my ears, and the batsmen ran about 42!!....oh what memories..:)

  • POSTED BY Mary_786 on | April 18, 2013, 1:19 GMT

    The Aussie backyard game is what makes our cricketers, its fierce and intense but fun at the same time. In the current players i remember reading about Hughes and Khawaja. Hughes had a banana patch on his leg side hence his offside was the preferred area of scoring and we can see that in his game even now. Khawaja is said to have played in a backyard where pull shots were rewarded as you had to clear bushland to get the maximum runs and we can see how well he plays that shot.Warner grew up in a backyard where scoring fast runs was rewarded. Its amazing how backyard cricket shapes the games of our modern players.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    backyard cricket to me :) takes me back ages, first half of 90's. india was getting battered overseas, not one batsman,except for tendulkar, looked the part facing upto fast bowling.. we had to show ourselves it was not impossible frontyard measuring 25 ft by 6 ft was the arena. one side taped tennis balls or wet rubber balls, flung (not bowled) from 15 yards onto a slightly wet concrete surface; with an imaginary field; real keeper, slips and short point; bat till u get out..out defined as thrice beaten/hit on the body apart from the normal, radio commentary of tests in the background as voice over.. day long duels, longest standing bat gets treated by the rest to tea/biscuits... oh those days..

  • POSTED BY Meety on | April 17, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    Gotta "Backyard" cricket story that isn't quite. I had a mate you's parents ran out of funds for their extensions next door. The whole front half of the house was just a brick & concrete shell. So all the boys in the neighborhood would come around & play indoor cricket in what was supposed to be the Lounge room! We'd have up to 5 a-side. All came to an end when a Feature Window (floor to ceiling) ended up with a big crack in it! A few year later I had another mate who's dad was a priest & we played Indoor cricket in the Church Hall - the pitch would of barely been 15 feet, so you'd bowl as fast as you can off a 5 step run up - there was no time for a back lift! Later in my Uni days - we'd play cricket at another mates place where the backyard was on a slope worse than Lord's & the pitch was a dirt driveway - the ball would spit & bounce & just getting the middle was a challenge. Also - love the rule where the Wheelie Bin was always Boonie & if you hit it on the full you were out!

  • POSTED BY Marktc on | April 17, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    Serious backyard cricket is not limited to Oz...in SA you grow up playing some serious back yard cricket. Depending on where you play, wickets range from bins to trees, bats could be any type of object that resembles a bat, balls are mostly tennis or the real thing. Don't get me wrong, often real bats and wickets are used, but such is the passion, anything can be used to strike up a committed game. Oh, and no pads...or gloves mostly..and never helmets...this is the tough play. In this 'rough' form of the game, batsman value their wickets and bowlers are ruthless. The rules are..well..what can I say..pretty basic. Sadly, due to breaking windows in houses around you, the lesser known rule -'six and you're out' is used. But this is where it all begins for many. Some remain playing this type of cricket and age has no bearing on the enjoyment of the game. Others move on to provincial and national callings....but backyard cricket is where it all begins..

  • POSTED BY nandwani88 on | April 17, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    Ah. The backyard test matches! What memories it brings back. Remembering me and my friends and cousins playing in backyards and rooftops in Belize City, bowling as Ambrose, Walsh, and Marshall. And batting like Lara, Chanders, and Richardson. I am left-handed, so I always got to be Lara and Chanders. Bowling was a bit tricky. Always went with Sobers so I could bowl spin and pace. And bat as well! Whaddaplaya! It's so cool to know our Aussie brothers play the same type of game all the way on the other side of the world! Pretty neat!

  • POSTED BY sharidas on | April 20, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Thanks Ashley ! From one of those thousands of backyard cricketers who never made it big, but carry fantastic memories, the same as those who made it big!

  • POSTED BY cric_wanderer on | April 20, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    those were the days.. we just needed a ball and we would play whole day long.. playing with different field restrictions depending on the number of fielders.. and those endless quarrels we had.. the best part is next day we would be back again playing..imitating our heroes.. from kapil to azhar to sachin to dravid to kumble...ohh... those were the days...

  • POSTED BY nickvegas on | April 19, 2013, 3:37 GMT

    Our backyard was a paved in concrete patio with a roof, so the only place to score runs was under the patio roof straight past the bowler. Even today my best shot is a cracking straight drive.

  • POSTED BY Cricket_theBestGame on | April 19, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    backyard cricket is what makes great cricketers! nearly all of the great names had played some sort of backyard/street cricket. they learnt the art the natural way that came to them. not by Level 3/4 certificate carried by ex cricketers to make living! ask Andy flower which coach he had in his childhood!

    me and my brother used to play with wood piece measuring only about 5cm in width. we used to play with tape ball and once a street passer by told us politely to buy a real bat ! we played backyard cricket up until 10yrs ago. we used it as a practice for the weekend match and it helped us greatly.

  • POSTED BY IndianInnerEdge on | April 18, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    Gr8 Read!...here's my 5c backyard story. In my early teens, went to a rural place in the backwaters area of Allepey district, Kerala state (south India). Elder cousins team were a man short, I was drafted. Posted to midwicket boundary (boundary was the backwater/canal running around the oval shaped flat ground that we played), batsman hooks in the air, I catch it - YAY!, Being in my young teens and full of TV imagery that we see of the cric stars- I throw it in the air over my head to celebrate the catch, unfortunately the throw crosses the canal directly behind me and falls on the orther side. Whilst this is happening did'nt cotton on to the fact that this was a NO-ball, had to run around the canal to pick up the ball (frm the other side) and throw it in-colourful words from my cousins ringing in my ears, and the batsmen ran about 42!!....oh what memories..:)

  • POSTED BY on | April 18, 2013, 17:33 GMT

    Loved reading this article. No matter who breaks the Window Mirror at home, I am to be blamed. Actually, It happens only in my presence. Haha .. I love any form of cricket and backyard cricket is really fun. Proud to be the Champion in my colony :)

  • POSTED BY Hammond on | April 18, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    Don't forget the greatest batsman of all, DG Bradman, and his backyard (lone) cricket game: "At the back of our home was an 800 gallon water tank set on a round brick stand. From the tank to the laundry door was a distance of about 8 feet. Armed with a small cricket stump (which I used as a bat) I would throw a golf ball at this brick stand and try to hit the ball on the rebound. The golf ball came back at great speed and to hit it at all with the round stump was no easy task."

  • POSTED BY Dubious on | April 18, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    @Marktc, Steve Cannane wrote a book about Australian backyard cricket a couple of years back and the point he made was that--until very recently--lots of Australia's premier talent honed their cricket in the backyard before joining clubs as teenagers where they played against men because there weren't the illustrious and exclusive school cricket programs like there are in the other Test nations, especially in South Africa and Sri Lanka.

  • POSTED BY Sunil_Batra on | April 18, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    @Mary some great comments, it is intreaguing seeing the likes of Warner and Khawaja continue the things they learned in backyard cricket, Khawaja does hook and pull well and you don't have to say much about Warner's strike rate. I believe both of these guys had older brothers so they would have been toughened up nicely by them. Also Can you imagine how intense it would have been in the Waugh's backyard, would have been similar scenes as in the chappell backyard, fantastic article.

  • POSTED BY umpump on | April 17, 2013, 22:38 GMT

    ... and as immortalised in Greg Champion's song "I Made A Hundred In The Backyard At Mum's".

  • POSTED BY lihtness on | April 17, 2013, 17:38 GMT

    This is what makes cricket such a great sport. Back in India we used play 2 innings of 8 overs each. We could fit cricket in anywhere and it is still so much fun.

  • POSTED BY 07sanjeewakaru on | April 17, 2013, 16:34 GMT

    Wonderful to read as always,In Sri Lanka Many versions of back yard cricket is played.But Transition to leather ball is almost infinitesimal. I've played many backyard games and learned many things about this wonderful game and life.Yes, cricket is the best game to play to learn about life. Always fun to hear Chappell brothers stories. Thank you for such a wonderful piece of writing!Grimmet to Hussey,Lovely!

  • POSTED BY sitaram58 on | April 17, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    our yard cricket was played with a rule that you were out if you hit the ball in the air over the wall. One of my cousins always fell to the "backyard sledge" and in his rage could be counted on to hit the ball over the wall

  • POSTED BY SouthPaw on | April 17, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar played cricket in the neighborhood street and claims that this helped him play with a straight bat ...

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    Remember the fights sometimes started before the game did, everyone wanted to be Donald or Big Mac, or Fanie or Hudson or Richardson, weren't enough players to go around.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 11:41 GMT

    :) I remember afternoons after school and entire days of the weekend playing backyard cricket fondly.

    One mates mum ran a material shop, so had tons of cardboard tubes lying around that was used for both wickets and bats, used real balls too. Hooking a bouncer over the roof and in to the neighbours pool with a tube of cardboard was awesome but you usually had to find another bat after that.

    Had another mate who lived in a cul-de-sac, one of the biggest amounts of trouble I ever got into was for "borrowing" some road closed signs from a near by construction site. Was the best day of cricket we had all year, right up to the time we forgot to check our watches and his dad came home to find his street closed.

    I guess youth really is wasted on the young, would give anything to go back to not having to work and spend my day playing cricket with mates.

  • POSTED BY gripusa on | April 17, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    The one key point highlighted in this backyard cricket then a regular bunch playing is that we usually emulate our idols or current lot while playing backyard cricket. I remember me and my brothers used to play different form of cricket (ODI's and Tests) and mostly we used to use Pakistan's local domestic teams as our inspiration and obviously broken windows, wounded legs and arms etc are part of the picture. Infect we were so crazy that we would record every ball like statistician and keep it as record obviously we have our own bests too :). Golden days

  • POSTED BY doubtingthomas on | April 17, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    Backyard Cricket comes next only to Brazilian street football in terms of passion and resourcefulness. My favourite recollection of backyard Cricket is trying to somehow get the ball stuck in the tree as run as many run as we could before someone shot the ball down from the tree.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    i bet my backyard cricket was strangest of all...me and friends used to play in Grave yard aka cemetereies or burial ground near to my ancestral house ..only our pitch and fielding circle were plain grounds....can u imagine that our long on and long off fieders used to stand on top of the grave..our playing time was usualy from 4 pm to 6.30 to 7 pm..so by the time end of second innings it was almost dark...if i think about it now ..it was freightening.and the natives used to come and burn our bats and stumps because it was a prophibited area.but we loved it and enjoyed it..nostalgic..and mind you in the night nobody walks or goes pats that area..beacuse of as the native belif was after night ghosts comes out of their graves..

  • POSTED BY KK47 on | April 17, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    In India, its famously called gully (street) cricket. Its huge and we have actual tournaments scheduled. Generally its 10/12 over a side. Playing with hard tennis balls specially 'designed' for cricket, it's the most common sport played anywhere in India. Immense fun it is. Batting simply means uninhibited strokeplay and as a bowler the only way to stop runs is by targetting the toes. People of all ages including women take part. This is one of the main reasons why T20's have become so popular in India.

  • POSTED BY py0alb on | April 17, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    I started playing with a cricket ball when I was 8 years old. No pads, no gloves, just a bat and a hard ball. You soon learnt to read the length and move your feet.

    The idea of using a tennis ball would have seemed outrageous. You could always tell the kids that had grown up using a tennis ball rather than a cricket ball, no technique whatsoever.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    Haha! Used to play these in England, esp that Ashes summer in '97 where it would always be Atherton facing McGrath and my grandfather playing the role of umpire David Shepherd!

  • POSTED BY mtalhas on | April 17, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    Interesting article. I can relate many things to what happens in Pakistan. I would go on to add a few more things though. LBWs is disabled in Pakistan because umpires are from the batting side and they would never give their players out on your appeal so its useless. We also use tape on tennis balls which gives it speed and once a side of the tape starts to come off and the fur appears from inside, vicious swing starts to happen. A few unpleasant things have also happened over the last few years. Disagreements over petty games between kids turned into riots for families where even gunshots were fired. However, backyard cricket or street cricket, it has given us legends just like what you mentioned in Australia. From Hanif Mohammed to Junaid Khan, all these stars came from the streets. For those, who cant make it to the big stage have something to enjoy. My batting style like that of Inzi and fast bowling like Waqar are a testimony :)

  • POSTED BY Rowayton on | April 17, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    For many years I said the fastest bowler I ever faced was my sister when she was 10 and I was 7. We played on a concrete path with a tennis ball so the normal length ended up somewhere near your teeth. Later on played with 3 brothers over the street, one of whom went on to represent Australia at baseball. I played in grade games that were less serious than the games with those guys.

  • POSTED BY Rowayton on | April 17, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    For many years I said the fastest bowler I ever faced was my sister when she was 10 and I was 7. We played on a concrete path with a tennis ball so the normal length ended up somewhere near your teeth. Later on played with 3 brothers over the street, one of whom went on to represent Australia at baseball. I played in grade games that were less serious than the games with those guys.

  • POSTED BY mtalhas on | April 17, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    Interesting article. I can relate many things to what happens in Pakistan. I would go on to add a few more things though. LBWs is disabled in Pakistan because umpires are from the batting side and they would never give their players out on your appeal so its useless. We also use tape on tennis balls which gives it speed and once a side of the tape starts to come off and the fur appears from inside, vicious swing starts to happen. A few unpleasant things have also happened over the last few years. Disagreements over petty games between kids turned into riots for families where even gunshots were fired. However, backyard cricket or street cricket, it has given us legends just like what you mentioned in Australia. From Hanif Mohammed to Junaid Khan, all these stars came from the streets. For those, who cant make it to the big stage have something to enjoy. My batting style like that of Inzi and fast bowling like Waqar are a testimony :)

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    Haha! Used to play these in England, esp that Ashes summer in '97 where it would always be Atherton facing McGrath and my grandfather playing the role of umpire David Shepherd!

  • POSTED BY py0alb on | April 17, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    I started playing with a cricket ball when I was 8 years old. No pads, no gloves, just a bat and a hard ball. You soon learnt to read the length and move your feet.

    The idea of using a tennis ball would have seemed outrageous. You could always tell the kids that had grown up using a tennis ball rather than a cricket ball, no technique whatsoever.

  • POSTED BY KK47 on | April 17, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    In India, its famously called gully (street) cricket. Its huge and we have actual tournaments scheduled. Generally its 10/12 over a side. Playing with hard tennis balls specially 'designed' for cricket, it's the most common sport played anywhere in India. Immense fun it is. Batting simply means uninhibited strokeplay and as a bowler the only way to stop runs is by targetting the toes. People of all ages including women take part. This is one of the main reasons why T20's have become so popular in India.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    i bet my backyard cricket was strangest of all...me and friends used to play in Grave yard aka cemetereies or burial ground near to my ancestral house ..only our pitch and fielding circle were plain grounds....can u imagine that our long on and long off fieders used to stand on top of the grave..our playing time was usualy from 4 pm to 6.30 to 7 pm..so by the time end of second innings it was almost dark...if i think about it now ..it was freightening.and the natives used to come and burn our bats and stumps because it was a prophibited area.but we loved it and enjoyed it..nostalgic..and mind you in the night nobody walks or goes pats that area..beacuse of as the native belif was after night ghosts comes out of their graves..

  • POSTED BY doubtingthomas on | April 17, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    Backyard Cricket comes next only to Brazilian street football in terms of passion and resourcefulness. My favourite recollection of backyard Cricket is trying to somehow get the ball stuck in the tree as run as many run as we could before someone shot the ball down from the tree.

  • POSTED BY gripusa on | April 17, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    The one key point highlighted in this backyard cricket then a regular bunch playing is that we usually emulate our idols or current lot while playing backyard cricket. I remember me and my brothers used to play different form of cricket (ODI's and Tests) and mostly we used to use Pakistan's local domestic teams as our inspiration and obviously broken windows, wounded legs and arms etc are part of the picture. Infect we were so crazy that we would record every ball like statistician and keep it as record obviously we have our own bests too :). Golden days

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 11:41 GMT

    :) I remember afternoons after school and entire days of the weekend playing backyard cricket fondly.

    One mates mum ran a material shop, so had tons of cardboard tubes lying around that was used for both wickets and bats, used real balls too. Hooking a bouncer over the roof and in to the neighbours pool with a tube of cardboard was awesome but you usually had to find another bat after that.

    Had another mate who lived in a cul-de-sac, one of the biggest amounts of trouble I ever got into was for "borrowing" some road closed signs from a near by construction site. Was the best day of cricket we had all year, right up to the time we forgot to check our watches and his dad came home to find his street closed.

    I guess youth really is wasted on the young, would give anything to go back to not having to work and spend my day playing cricket with mates.

  • POSTED BY on | April 17, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    Remember the fights sometimes started before the game did, everyone wanted to be Donald or Big Mac, or Fanie or Hudson or Richardson, weren't enough players to go around.